Nightly News   |  August 29, 2010

Katrina’s scars still visible in Lower Ninth

The storm’s devastation was felt nowhere more powerfully than New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood that became synonymous with the catastrophe. NBC’s Carl Quintanilla reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, host (New Orleans): Katrina , mostly only local folks knew about the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. After Katrina , it became an icon around the world for this storm. After the flood wall failed and the water crushed that entire area. Here's what it looked like before the storm, everything still intact. Then, just after the water came, you can see the neighborhood almost completely submerged. And these days, here's how it looks now, partially rebuilt, scars still visible. Five years ago, our own Carl Quintanilla was part of the team here covering this story. Tonight finds him back in the Lower Ninth Ward . Carl , good evening.

CARL QUINTANILLA reporting: Brian , good evening to you. As you know, this neighborhood was a symbol of tragedy five years ago, so much so that tour buses now come through here, but rarely on streets like this. Not the best, not the worst, mostly average. Here's a home that was rebuilt beginning in 2007 . We talked to the neighbor, that house has been in the family for generations. Beautiful front door, the trash can ready for trash pickup . They've had trash pickup and mail delivery for years. But it's right next to this house, which is clearly abandoned. The neighbor says he has no idea if or when these folks are ever coming back. And then there are lots where the home has been completely demolished. No idea what the plan is for this lot. These numbers, Brian , spray painted on the sidewalk, are where the city officials write the house address to remind themselves of what address this actually is. One out of five people in the Lower Ninth are back. It's easy to see why. They're among the poorest. They're closest to the levees. We're really not that far. And there's not much in the way of groceries or markets or cleaners nearby. A big question is, who comes back first, the residents or the businesses? I think one of the hardest things to look at are the overgrown lots. Here are some overgrown weeds. They tower above me, and I'm six foot. Residents complain about mosquitoes at night, the feral cats, the roosters, the rabbits that make noise, the rodents. They say in some ways it's like living in the countryside. There's minimal traffic, there are really no kids playing in the street, even though we are in the middle of a major metropolitan area. The thing that strikes me the most, Brian are the colors -- the paint colors of the homes that people are rebuilding, very bright oranges, bright green, neon blue . Some say it's a tradition. Some say it gives them something to smile about. But one family, Brian , told me, it's so the next time there's a flood, they can tell the police, 'We're the big bright blue house on the corner.'

Brian: Wow. All of it poignant, all of it part of the New Orleans way. There you are, Carl , in that neighborhood, here we are in a rebuilt neighborhood over here.

WILLIAMS: